North Kingstown, R. I. – August 21, 1944

North Kingstown, Rhode Island – August 21, 1944

Updated March 8, 2019

 

TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     On the afternoon of August 21, 1944, two TBF-1 Avengers, (Bu. No. 23967), and (Bu. No. 06104), left Quonset Point Naval Air Station as part of a flight of several planes that were to take part in a routine training mission.   The two Avengers were flying in a two-plane formation over Narragansett Bay along the western side of Jamestown Island while they waited for other aircraft in the flight to join up with them.  Bu. No. 23967, piloted by Ensign Walter L. Miller, Jr., 21, of Texas, was in the lead position.  The other aircraft, Bu. No. 06104 was piloted by another Ensign, and was flying in the number two position. 

    While both aircraft were about two miles southwest of the Jamestown Bridge, and at an altitude of 1,500 feet, they began to make a ten degree bank to the left.  The air was turbulent, and while the bank was being executed, the right wing of the number two aircraft collided with the elevator of the lead plane.  Immediately after the collision, Ensign Miller’s aircraft went down and crashed into a vacant house in the Saunderstown section of North Kingstown and came to rest in the side yard where it exploded killing all aboard.  The vacant cottage was destroyed by the fire.

     There was an 8-year-old boy playing in the front yard of his home 100 yards away who suffered non-life-threatening burns from the flaming gasoline sprayed by the explosion.   

     A second house in which an elderly invalid woman was residing was also set ablaze.  She was rescued by two Coast Guardsmen, Meredith E. Dobry, of Bensonville, Ill. and Daniel Caruso, of Meriden, Ct., who both happened to be in the area at the time of the crash.     

     The other Avenger was able to make it safely back to Quonset Point without injury to the crew.

     Both aircraft were assigned to CASU-22 at Quonset Point.

     The dead were identified as:

     Pilot: Ensign Walter Lee Miller, Jr., 21, of Morton, Texas.  To see a photograph of Ensign Miller, go to www.findagrave.com, see memorial #38854830.   

     ARM3c Jacob C. Beam, 20, of Pottstown, Pa. He’s buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery in North Coventry, Pa.  See www.findagrave memorial #130440147.

    AMM3c Donald J. Finkler. 19, of East Cleveland, Ohio.

     Sources:

     U. S. Navy accident report dated August 21, 1944 

     Providence Journal, “Three Quonset Airmen Die As Plane Falls, Fires House”, August 22, 1944, Pg. 1

     New York Times, “Plane Hits House; 3 Die”, August 22, 1944

     Newport Mercury, “Navy Men Identified In Bomber Crash”, date either Aug. 22, or 23rd, 1944

     Town of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records.

 

Off Jamestown, R.I. – June 6, 1944

Off Jamestown, Rhode Island – June 6, 1944

Lockheed PV-1 Ventura

U.S. Navy Photo

     At 9:34 a.m. on June 6, 1944, a U.S. Navy Pv-1 Ventura (Bu. No. 29917) took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station with seven men aboard bound for Nantucket, Massachusetts.   Six minutes into the flight the plane went down in the water just 200 yards off the shore of Jamestown (a.k.a. Conanicut) Island in an area known locally as “The Dumplings”.  (The area is so-called due to the rock formations that protrude from the water.)  The fuselage reportedly hit the water between “Big Dumpling” and what was then the Jamestown Ferry Company dock, which is today part of a marina.  

     There are conflicting accounts of the accident.  It was initially reported that the plane suffered some type of explosion while airborne, and possibly a second on impact with the water, and it was further reported that the aircraft was in several pieces on the bottom of the bay.  However, the official findings listed in the Navy Investigation Brief, (#44-14865), indicated pilot error and poor weather conditions as the cause for the accident, with no mention of an explosion. 

     In the report it was stated in part:, “Opinion from Adm. Report: That the plane crossed over Conanicut Island on a southerly heading and upon entering the vicinity of poor visibility in the Newport Area , either developed engine trouble, causing the pilot to turn and let down to a lower altitude to establish absolute visual contact with the water or ground in case of a forced landing.  Upon suddenly finding the island so close ahead he attempted to pull up and turn away in a sharp left turn with an immediate application of full power.  The violence of this maneuver or the possible failure of the port engine could have been sufficient to invert the airplane from which recovery at this low altitude was impossible. ”   

     All aboard the aircraft were killed in the crash.  They were identified as:

     Pilot: Lieutenant Jack Collins Sullivan, 25, of Dearborn, Michigan.  He was survived by his wife Marcia. 

     Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class Thomas Joseph Kiernan, Jr., 22, of Albany, New York.  He was survived by his wife Virginia. 

     Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Regis Aloysius McKean, 23, of Queens, New York.  He was survived by his wife Patricia.  Petty Officer McKean was married on March 2, 1944, just three months before the accident.  To see a photo of the couple on their wedding day, go to www.findagrave.com and look under memorial #82683365. 

     Aviation Ordinance Man 2nd Class Frank Peter Van Oosten, 23, of Malden, Massachusetts. (The only New Englander aboard) He was survived by his wife Hazel. 

     Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class Albert Lee Kresie, Jr., 26, of Kansas. 

     Aviation Radioman 2nd Class Francis Gabriel Hricko, 27, of Hastings, Pennsylvania.  He was survived by his wife Jane, whom he’d married just two weeks earlier.  

     Doctor John McMorris (Ph. D), 39, of California.  He was survived by his wife Helen.   Dr. McMorris was a civilian working on an undisclosed project for the military.  Dr. McMorris was a pioneer in developing ways to recover formerly unrecoverable fingerprints at police crime scenes.  His research, discoveries, and techniques developed in the 1930s are commonly used by police today. 

     This incident remains the worst aviation accident to occur in the town of Jamestown, Rhode Island.    

     Sources:

     U.S. Navy Crash Investigation Report brief, #44-14865

     Newport Daily News, “Navy Plane Blows Up Off Jamestown”, June 6, 1944

     Woonsocket Call, “Plane Explodes, Seven Killed”, June 6, 1944, page 1

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Seven Are Lost When Navy Plane Explodes In Air”, June 6, 1944, page 20

     Providence Journal, “7 Thought Dead As Plane Crashes”, June 7, 1944, Page 20, Col. 1

     Malden News, (Mass.) “Frank P. Van Oosten Starts Navy Life”, September 10, 1942, Page 5, Col. 6

     Malden News, (Mass.) F. P. Van Oosten Killed In Plane Crash”, June 7, 1944, Page 1

     Malden Press, (Mass.) “Malden Sailor Killed In Plane crash”, June 9, 1944, Page 5.

     The California Identification Digest, March/April 2006 edition, Volume 6, Issue 2 , “The Iodine/Silver-Transfer Method For Recording Latent Fingerprints”, by Darrell Klasey  

     The California Identification Digest, May/June 2006 edition, Volume 6, Issue 3, “Dr. John McMorris, Fume Pipe Inventor, Dies In Airplane Fall”, By Darrell Klasey

     Obituary for Frances G. Hricko, unknown newspaper.

     Town of Jamestown, Rhode Island, death records.

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